Can You Get Life Insurance After A Heart Attack?

An event as serious and sudden as a heart attack can change your perspective on life overnight. As you mull through many important questions, one of them may very well be: “Can I still get life insurance?” The short answer is yes — with a few caveats.

Some companies will outright decline coverage if you have experienced a heart attack, especially if it was in the last 6-12 months. However, many companies still offer life insurance with some modifications. 

Let’s break down your options and explain the rules for getting life insurance coverage following a heart attack. 

What is a Heart Attack?

Sure, having a heart condition can complicate your insurance search, but companies like AIG offer specialized policies. For example, people who once thought it impossible due to their status can explore AIG life insurance HIV solutions to get the coverage they need.

A heart attack occurs when blood flow suddenly becomes blocked. This means one part of your heart muscle gets deprived of oxygen. If blood flow isn’t quickly restored, the heart muscle becomes damaged as cells die. 

Heart attacks, while scary, are very common. The CDC estimates more than 805,000 people have a heart attack in the US each year. 

If you have experienced a heart attack, you may have permanent heart damage. This could affect your heart’s rhythm and its ability to circulate blood. 

A heart attack can also put you at risk for having another heart attack, or for experiencing stroke, kidney disorders, or peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

If you follow all your doctor’s orders, you can manage the risks associated with your heart attack and go on to lead a full life. But, the event will still alter your life insurance options, especially if it was recent. 

Getting Coverage After a Heart Attack: What To Expect  

If you’ve experienced a heart attack, you’ll likely be subject to more extensive medical underwriting. This means companies may look at your medical records, ask for medical exams, and possibly request cardiac tests.

Most often, life insurance companies will consider the following factors:

  • How long it’s been since your heart attack. The longer it’s been since your heart attack, the more favorable your options. 
  • The severity and number of attacks. Notable heart damage will lead to fewer options and higher rates. So does having a history of more than one heart attack. 
  • Your current health status. Hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and other conditions will affect your coverage options too. Making choices to reduce your health risks, like losing weight, can help you get a lower premium. 

Underwriters will also look at the treatment you’ve been receiving since your heart attack. That includes how well you’re sticking to prescribed medications and lifestyle recommendations. Provide evidence of these decisions to help support your application. 

What Questions Will I Need to Answer to Get Life Insurance?

Every insurance company has its own underwriting process. Following a heart attack, there are a number of questions you may be asked to answer, like:

  • What tests have you had and what were the results? For example, a stress EKG or a stress echo. 
  • Were any surgical procedures performed? This would include catheterization, bypass, etc. 
  • Have you had chest pain, shortness of breath, or other symptoms since your heart attack? 
  • Is there a history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes in your family?
  • What medications are you currently taking?

You may also need to list the names of any physicians you have seen, along with the dates you last visited them (and why). 

What Policy Terms Can I Expect After a Heart Attack?

Every company has different stipulations when it comes to insuring someone after a heart attack. 

If you have less than optimal health or your heart attack was less than a year ago, you’ll likely see graded or modified options.  These come with a two-year waiting period before your insurer will pay out your full death benefit.

The best-case scenario is that you qualify for preferred terms. This is possible, especially if you’re managing your health well. You may also qualify if you have little long-term heart damage, or your heart attack was years ago. 

Term Life Insurance After a Heart Attack

Term life insurance provides coverage for a fixed period, usually between 5 and 40 years. If you outlive the term of your policy, your coverage simply expires. 

A healthy individual can get a substantial term life policy for far cheaper than whole life. That’s because there’s a high chance they’ll outlive it. With a history of a heart attack or other adverse health events, premiums increase and options decrease. 

How Term Life Insurance Companies Underwrite After a Heart Attack

While term life is a popular option for healthy individuals, it can be harder to get after a heart attack. This is because events like a heart attack can greatly impact your life expectancy.

To mitigate risk, most companies will not offer term life insurance to you unless a substantial amount of time has passed since your heart attack. 

You’ll likely be asked to undergo a comprehensive medical exam before you can get a term life policy. 

Generally, you can achieve the best rates by providing the most information. Provide test results if you can, like a nuclear stress test and test echocardiogram. Ideally, results should be dated within 12 months. 

The Best and Worst Companies for Term Life Insurance After a Heart Attack

A reduced life expectancy means more risk to insurance companies. So, you may be denied term life coverage. For example, Americo and Mutual of Omaha do not offer term life policies at all to someone who’s had a heart attack.

However, if your heart attack was a while back, your term life insurance options will start to open up. For instance, Prosperity and Foresters both offer term life insurance if your heart attack was more than 5 to 10 years ago (respectively). 

Whole Life Insurance After a Heart Attack

Whole life insurance, sometimes called permanent life insurance, protects you for your entire life. Usually, premiums are fixed. That means you don’t have to worry about costs increasing — even if you have another heart attack.

Final expense insurance is a viable option following a heart attack. These policies offer $1,000 – $50,000 of coverage to individuals ages 18-90. There’s no medical exam. Approval is based on a few “yes-or-no” questions and an automated check of your prescription drug history.

A third option is “guaranteed acceptance life insurance.” These policies do not involve a medical exam or health questions. Instead, eligibility is based on age alone.

But, we rarely recommend guaranteed issue policies because of their high prices.

How Whole Life Insurance Companies Underwrite After a Heart Attack

Standard whole life policies come with a fixed death benefit. This means your family will get the same life insurance payout no matter when you pass away. That makes planning for peace of mind much simpler. 

However, if you apply soon after your heart attack, you may be offered a graded or modified plan.

These plans do not pay out your full death benefit if you die of natural causes during the first two years.  If you pass away during this period, your insurer will simply refund the premiums you’ve paid (with interest).

If your death is accidental, however, your policy will always pay out your full benefit amount.

The Best and Worst Companies for Whole Life Insurance After a Heart Attack

If you’re looking for final expense whole life insurance, you want two things: immediate coverage and low prices (Preferred rates).

If you’ve had a heart attack within the past year, nearly every burial insurance company will put you on a plan with a waiting period.  This goes for 18 of the 19 companies that GetSure partners with.

Transamerica is the one exception.

Remarkably, Transamerica will put you in their Standard rating class no matter when your heart attack was (even if you had one yesterday!).

If your heart attack occurred between one and two years ago, you’ll get immediate coverage with a number of companies.  However, Aetna and Americo are the only two that will offer you both immediate coverage and Preferred rates.

After two years, you’re generally in the clear.  You’ll get the same rates and terms as someone who has never had a heart attack.

Sons of Norway is the stubborn outlier here.  They will outright decline you if you’ve had a heart attack within the past five years.